Perhaps we are the last generation who has seen the riots of folk media unleashing on our neighbourhood streets or in local grounds so often. Millennial sees a few elements of folk culture as luxury, whereas most of the folk media is now in a preservation mode. The impression gets roots when one sees the book titled ‘Saqafati Media’ or folk media, by Moneeba Iftikhar, which is a sincere effort to keep the folk media drum rolling.
Moneeba Iftikhar is a woman of many parts – a university lecturer, a PhD scholar, a trainer, a poet, and a good human being. These are her faces, which I know so far. Being an author is just another feather in her cap. The choice of the subject for book is praise worthy, for not many people, especially those studying mass communication, know about the history and characteristics of folk media of Punjab. Yes, the 72-page book takes the readers to the world of folk media, history, introduction, characteristics, types, pros and cons, and theater – an effective modern source of cultural communication.
The book, written in a textbook mode, highlights the importance of cultural rites passed on generation to generation through folk media in the evolution of society. Of course, modern media facilitates a greater part of the world faster and more efficiently, but then there is a heavy cost of it. Folk media would bring people close to each other, whereas the modern media has brought about virtual changes creating huge gaps in family members and communities. Once a delight for the whole town – puppetry, drama (natak), jhoomer, mahaiya, tappa and street theater – the folk media refuses to shed its appeal among the people because of its strong message and deep connectivity with the roots of land.
Those cultural dresses, weddings rites, street sports, traditional dishes and riddles need to be revived and promoted. How many of us keep going to decades-old melas? Not many.
The book dedicates a chapter on theater and explains its types like tamasha, notanki, galli tamasha (street play), bian kahani (story telling), pahelian (riddles), idioms and folk music. True, theater keeps on surviving the onslaught of the modernity, but the incumbent theater has come a long way. Gone are those days when a mobile theater would land in a nearby village in my hometown Muzaffargarh in post-wheat harvest months. I would regularly visit the theater every night to watch Heer Ranjha. The woman in her old 40s had been playing the role of Heer in the theater for decades. She would get round of cheers whenever she challenged the villain character. She was never harassed by the audience. Such was the power of theater. The last time, the mobile theater visited the village was in 2008.
Thank you, Moneeba Iftikhar for indulging me in the romance of folk media. The book, however, is full of stumbles, such as bookish definitions, straight narration and lack of story-telling. Folk media is a realm of no-stumble. When you revise the book, or write another book on folk media, make it as interesting as a theater, as challenging as a riddle, as fluent as a mahiya, as smooth as round of jhoomer, and as beautiful as Moneeba.